Chinese New Year cake is known in Mandarin as nian gao (“higher year”), and eating a piece of it is supposed to improve your luck in the coming year. Similar in texture to mochi, our nontraditional version is a baked coconut cake that has a moist, almost bouncy quality.
What to buy: Sweet rice flour, also known as glutinous rice flour or mochiko, is produced from sticky rice grains and is actually gluten-free. It’s available at Asian markets in the starch section. Regular rice flour, which is produced from long-grain rice, will not yield the same results.
We prefer to use organic coconut extract, such as this one from Flavorganics, rather than imitation extract, which has a chemical aftertaste.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for coating the baking dish
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter; set aside.
Place the coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until toasted and golden brown in color, about 5 minutes; set aside.
Place the eggs in a large bowl and lightly beat to break up the yolks. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut, rotate the dish, and bake until the edges are just starting to brown and the top is just set (a bubble may form, but it will flatten as the cake cools), about 20 to 25 minutes more.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before serving. Wrap leftovers tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.